Most preschoolers' diets lack fiber

February 9, 2005 in Nutrition for Children and Teenagers, Nutrition Topics in the News

Most preschoolers' diets lack fiber

A recent survey shows that most children between the ages of 2 and 5 don't eat even close to the recommended amount of fiber, likely the result of their preferences for fiber-poor foods.  For instance, some of the main sources of fiber among preschoolers were applesauce, fruit cocktail, and high-fat meals such as pizza.

Dr. Sibylle Kranz from Pennsylvania State University in University Park and her colleagues report that high fiber items, such as vegetables and fruits were consumed in quantities so small, they did not contribute much to total average fiber intake. Kranz reported that the foods that made the top-ten list were all rather low in fiber, but children consume them in such large amounts, that they become significant sources of fiber.

Young children with higher levels of fiber intake also ate more fruits and vegetables. And when fiber intake increased, so did levels of iron, folate, and vitamins A and C. Kranz and her team also found that, on average, all children -- regardless of their fiber intake -- did not get enough calcium. Even fiber-lovers may not get enough calcium if they choose fruit drinks and soda over milk and other calcium rich products.

In the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Kranz and her team note that the National Academy of Sciences currently recommends that everyone eat 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories they consume. In children, fiber appears to protect against chronic constipation, while other research shows it can also stave off some cancers, obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

The other main source of fiber for children was soy and legumes, ready-to-eat cereals such as shredded wheat, and high-fat salty snacks. Younger preschoolers tended to eat less fiber than the older children. However, the highest category of fiber consumption among all children was only between 9 and 10 grams for every 1,000 calories -- significantly lower than the latest recommendations.

Researchers pointed out that children who are used to a high-fiber diet will likely grow up to be adults who get healthy amounts of fiber, as well, which can protect them from a host of diseases. Researchers also encouraged parents and teachers to ensure children consume more high-fiber foods such as fresh fruit or substituting whole grain bread for white bread.

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